Is it ethical to work as a shadow developer by hiding identity? (Please read and help me)

Hi all, Please have a read on the discussion and help me with your thoughts.

Today, I have to decline projects from one of my regular clients. We surely had a great number of projects to collaborate with. The declining issue was about the working procedure of him which I came to know yesterday.

I just came to know that, he contacts potential clients or companies with his resume and apply for remote jobs. And, after that, he takes part in the interview, then delivers the test or project’s work by hiring other freelancer developers like me. ( He is also a Frontend developer. So, he passes the interview by answering questions rightly.) He once proposed me to hit APIs from his PC by the remote connection for a future client. I didn’t have to do that till now. But, it seemed a little bit of unsettling to me.

BTW, Today, I asked him if he clarifies the client that he has a team of developers or he works alone? If no, I also requested him not to add me on those projects. And, as I guessed, he is not working with me anymore on these kinds of projects.

I am feeling that I was right. Because a company hires a developer based on his skills, not his team. And, hiding the identity seemed unethical to me. And, I felt, I am just disrespecting my hard work.

But, I am also thinking- Have I done injustice to him?

Because, in freelance platforms like Fiverr or Upwork or others, I get offers from other developers from now and then (when I am writing this, I have got another one where he wants help for one of his client’s projects). So, how would I do work where many of the orders are like these? Should I ask all of them if they inform the clients or just hiding it?

I know there are subcontractors on these platforms. That is one thing, and hiding identity is another thing. That’s why I had to take a bold decision. But, I am afraid that- Will I get enough clients if I become this kind of strict?

I am seeking proper and constructive suggestions from you. It is the first place I am seeking some real suggestions (not just you have done a good or bad job).

It seems like your client acts as a middleman basically searching for a job for you, what’s wrong about that?

The main issue is the nature of your deal, it could be work-for-hire when you give all the rights to him, including presenting your code as his own. Or it could be contractor deal when you keep the rights to the code and basically give him a license to use it. If that’s something you want to use as your portfolio, you should really negotiate contractor deal

Yes, he is working as a middleman. He is getting a job and having meeting with companies and he is showing that he is doing their job, hitting APIs from his pc by other one. I was just confused if it is ethical.

Clients hire someone who gets the job done, whether that’s subcontracted or not. The ethics of it depends on how much he represents his organization as being solely himself. At the extreme would be if he outright lied if asked directly, but there’s plenty of shades of grey between.

It’s perfectly okay and in fact a good idea to interview the interviewer about their organizational structure, but I wouldn’t recommend asking the question as you seem to be phrasing it. It is certainly okay to ask what level of client interaction is expected from you, what sort of existing infrastructure you’re expected to use (hopefully it’s not just a home PC) and so forth – basically asking about their role as middleman as it pertains to the project at hand.

It’s not really unethical (unless you have an issue with capitalism, which is reasonable, but a completely different issue), because that’s how companies work. Him being hired based on him saying it was him, personally, doing the work might cause some issues between him and the hirer, due to misrepresentation, but it may not, and that’s between him and the hirer & and encoded in the contract they agree. Otherwise, that’s capitalism: make money by hiring people to do the work you need done.